was as an officer in the United States Navy in the Atlantic during World War I and in the Pacific during World War II. A pioneer in the development of aircraft carrier combat operations concepts, he is noted for his aggressive aerial warfare tactics as a captain on the during World War II. His citation for the Distinguished Service Medal states: "His judicious planning and brilliant execution was largely responsible for the rout of the enemy Japanese fleet in the Battle of Midway."
Miles Browning was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to New York City stockbroker Oren Fogle Browning, Jr. and Sarah Louise (Smith) Browning, a poet descended from Native American Mohawks in upstate New York. He attended public schools before his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1914. He graduated early, commissioned Ensign with the Class of 1918 on June 29, 1917.Mountain Lakes Library. . Accessed 2006-08-09.
During World War I, Browning served on the , a battleship of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, until February 1918. He then had duty in connection with fitting out the battleship . In June 1918, he joined the French cruiser Lutetia, and was senior American Naval Officer aboard while she operated with Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet, through the end of the war.
Following the war Browning spent four consecutive years afloat, serving on the battleship (flagship of the Atlantic Fleet), the destroyer , and as Engineer Officer of , and later (destroyers operating with the U.S. Pacific Fleet). Lieutenant Browning joined in 1920, serving as Executive Officer until transferred a year later to similar duty
On May 20, 1922, Browning married San Francisco socialite Cathalene Isabella Parker, stepdaughter of Vice Admiral Clark H. Woodward. From 1922 to January 1924, Browning served as Senior Patrol Officer on the cruiser USS Charleston and the destroyer USS Thompson, operating out of Naval Station San Diego. During that time, his only daughter, Cathalene Parker Browning, was born in San Diego. (Her son is American comedian Chevy Chase.)
In January 1924, Browning reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola for flight training. He showed exceptional skill in the cockpit, but also exhibited a "wild streak" which struck his squadron mates as "potentially dangerous."Wildenberg, Thomas. Destined for glory: dive bombing, Midway, and the evolution of carrier airpower. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1998. ISBN 1-55750-947-6. Designated Naval Aviator on September 29, 1924, he became one of America's earliest navy combat pilots, joining USS Langley, America's first aircraft carrier, which had been converted from the collier (whose sister ships, and , vanished without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle area). From January 1925 until May 1927, Browning was assigned to Observation Squadron 2, attached first to the minelayer , later to the battleship . Advanced to Operations Officer, he served for two years at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. Promoted to Naval Flight Officer, he was assigned his first command in July 1929: Scouting Squadron 5S, the aviation unit of the light cruiser . During that time he performed additional duty on the staff of the commander of Light Cruiser Division Two of the Scouting Fleet (USS Trenton, flagship).
As an early combat aviator, Browning helped develop and implement fighter aircraft tactics and strategy; he also helped shape how naval warplanes were designed and built. In July 1931, he reported to the Bureau of Aeronautics to serve in the Material Division (Design), and spent the next three years helping to design and test combat aircraft. As a test pilot, he crashed a plane in 1932 and was laid up in a San Diego naval hospital. The monoplane fighters which Browning and others piloted went through numerous upgrades in both structure and function, every design change hotly debated by men whose very lives were at stake. Browning was part of the group of "progressives" that pushed for development of a high-performance fighter, with maneuverability secondary to speed. These men felt that a true fighter had to be fast enough to quickly overtake and shoot down enemy planes. Unfortunately for Browning and the other progressive thinkers, the Bureau of Aeronautics continued to emphasize maneuverability, climb, and flight ceiling at the expense of speed and other characteristics that the progressives argued were more important. If the bureau had been more receptive to the emphasis on speed, the United States might have entered World War II with a more advanced high-performance fighter.Wildenberg, Thomas. Destined for glory: dive bombing, Midway, and the evolution of carrier airpower. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1998. ISBN 1-55750-947-6.
In June 1934, Browning was given command of Fighting Squadron 3B, based on the USS Langley and later on USS Ranger, the first American warship built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier. He served in that capacity until June 1936, when he reported to the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, for postgraduate studies with additional duty at the Naval Torpedo Station there. Upon completion of his junior year, he became one of the first naval instructors at the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field in 1937, training a new generation of fighter pilots while continuing his advanced studies in combat theory, national security policy, airborne command and control and joint military operations.
Browning laid out his tactical logic in a 13-page, single-spaced, typewritten thesis on carrier warfare prepared at the Naval War College in 1936, the year that Nazi Germany allied with Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. Browning's essay anticipated the flaw in Japanese carrier execution which he would exploit during the coming war. After completing his academic work, Browning was appointed to Admiral William F. Halsey's staff in the new billet of Air Tactical Officer. In June 1938, he joined the United States' second new aircraft carrier, , to serve as commander of Yorktowns carrier air wing. Browning personally developed and organized the Fleet Aircraft Tactical Unit based on Yorktown, and commanded it for two additional years. When Halsey became the commander of Air Battle Forces two years later, Browning remained on his staff as Operations and War Plans Officer and became Halsey's Chief of staff in June 1941. From the onset of U.S. involvement in World War II, Browning provided tactical counsel to Halsey from the bridge of the flagship USS Enterprise.
As war loomed on the horizon, Halsey had Browning prepare the crew of Enterprise and her aircraft squadrons. They were en route to Hawaii after delivering a doomed Marine Corps fighter squadron to Wake Island when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. USS Enterprise scout bombers arrived over Pearl during the attack, and immediately went into action in defense of the naval base. Six of them were shot down. The carrier reached the devastated harbor just after the attack, and put to sea again early the next morning to patrol against any additional threats to the Hawaiian Islands. (Enterprise planes sank a Japanese submarine on December 10, 1941, three days into the war.)
With the United States Pacific Fleet nearly destroyed, USS Enterprise and her battle group took up forward defensive positions west of Hawaii. Eight of the fleet's nine battleships had been trapped in the harbor, four of them sunk and four heavily damaged, along with three of the fleet's eight cruisers present during the dawn attack. With her battleship force crippled, defense against further attacks on the United States and her territories was left to her three aircraft carriers stationed in the Pacific: Enterprise, and the converted battlecruisers and .
Designated flagship of the Pacific Fleet, Enterprise sailed in January 1942 to protect American convoys reinforcing Samoa. Soon, though, under the aggressive leadership of Halsey and Browning, Enterprise took up the offensive. In February and March 1942, Browning directed numerous daring air raids on Japanese bases at Kwajalein, Wotje, and Maloelap in the Marshall Islands, and blasted enemy installations in the Gilbert Islands, Marcus Island, and Wake Island. Halsey gave credit for much of his own remarkable military success to his chief of staff, and recommended Commander Browning for a spot promotion to the rank of captain. So dramatic were Browning's air raids on Japanese island bases that Life magazine dubbed him "America's mastermind in aerial warfare." Costello, John. The Pacific War. New York: Rawson, Wade, 1981. ISBN 0-89256-206-4.
Browning's promotion was approved by CINCPAC that April following the "Doolittle Raid", in which Browning himself played a role in both planning and executing. Dubbed "Jimmy Doolittle's Raid" by the American press, the daring scheme launched 16 Army Air Force long-range bombers, led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, from the deck of the carrier , with Enterprise providing combat air support. The squadron dropped bombs on Tokyo at high noon on April 18, 1942, completely surprising the Japanese and giving the beleaguered American troops and public a much-needed boost in morale.
Awards and decorations he received:
* Distinguished Service Medal
* Silver Star
* World War I Victory Medal with Atlantic Fleet Clasp
* World War II Victory Medal with Pacific Fleet Clasp
* American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp
* American Campaign Medal
* Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Silver and Bronze Engagement Stars
* Presidential Unit Citation, USS Enterprise
* Presidential Unit Citation, USS Hornet''
* Naval Aviator Badge
* Naval Flight Officer Badge
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